Brittany Lincicome dished up a near carbon copy Sunday of arguably her greatest shot ever Sunday at the ANA Inspiration to make an eagle on 18 and force a playoff with Stacy Lewis. It was nearly deja vu for Lincicome, who hit the exact same shot into the 18th six years ago here to six feet for an eagle to win the championship by one. This year’s version needed three more trips down the 18th fairway though before Lincicome had her second major championship and sixth careeer LPGA Tour victory with three straight pars in extra holes.
“I mean, to make eagle on any hole is pretty incredible, and then to do it on Sunday at a major, at this major where I did it in 2009,” Lincicome said, “it’s really surreal. I feel like if you would have bet me all the money in the world to see how many times you could do it, if I went back to the fairway now I probably couldn’t hit that shot again. So like I said earlier, today was my day. Somebody was looking out for me today.”
Even after Lincicome’s eagle at the 72nd hole, which sent the American in the air jumping for joy, Lewis could have still ended it in regulation with a birdie at the last. Playing in the final group, Lewis hit her approach on the par-5 in to just 10 feet but misread the birdie putt and narrowly missed it on the low side.
Both went back down the 18th fairway for the first of three times. After Lincicome left her putt from the fringe just inches short, Lewis had another shot to win it with a 10 footer, which nearly snuck and died in the hole but somehow managed to stay above ground.
So back they went down the 18th fairway, and after Lewis plopped her third down seven feet from the hole, Lincicome dropped hers just a foot behind Lewis’. Somehow Lincicome’s birdie putt stayed on the high side and didn’t fall in the cup despite dying with just the right speed. It looked like it was going to again be Lewis’ jump to be had in Poppie’s Pond. But somehow Lewis’ putt followed the same path as Lincicome and despite the perfect speed, never fell.
Off they went again to the 18th tee for the third playoff hole in which Lewis got an unlucky break with her layup falling in a divot. She didn’t quite get enough of it and left it just short of the green.
“Just right when the club came down, it just caught both sides of the divot, basically of the turf, and it just killed it,” said Lewis. “I got no good contact on the ball, killed all the momentum.”
Lincicome proceeded to drop her approach in to about eight feet and when Lewis left her chip 10 feet short and missed the putt, the championship was finally Lincicome’s. There on the green waiting when she tapped in her par putt were her future husband, dad and caddie, all ready to join Lincicome in taking her second plunge into Poppie’s Pond. The win breaks a nearly four-year winless drought and comes just eight months after losing in a playoff to Inbee Park at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.
“We’ve been close so many times, and it’s just one of those where don’t let it get to you,” Lincicome said. “We’ll just keep feeding from it and something good is going to happen. Lo and behold here, 2009 I won on Easter Sunday, and today is Easter Sunday, so it’s pretty crazy to think about.”
Lincicome becomes the seventh player in the tournament’s history with more than one win, joining Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb, Betsy King, Amy Alcott, Dottie Pepper and Juli Inkster.
OH SO CLOSE
Stacy Lewis came up just short again at the ANA Inspiration after a bogey on the third sudden-death playoff hole. Since her last victory last June at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, Lewis has now recorded five runner-up finishes and five additional top-10s.
“I guess the more times you do it, the easier it gets,” said Lewis. “I don’t know. That’s all you can do. You can’t sit and dwell on it. You just have to go out the next week and try to win. I’m doing a lot of really good things, so I just have to keep going forward.”
Lewis said she had a bit of solace having lost to close friend in Lincicome and said that she was glad to see three American flags finish 1-2-3 with Morgan Pressel finishing in solo third.
“We’re good friends. I don’t think she’s won in a while, so it’s a great win for her,” said Lewis. “I don’t know. If anything, I like seeing three American flags at the top of the leaderboard. I kind of went into it saying an American’s going to win this major. So I think it’s a win-win.”
PRESSEL’S BAD HOP
Morgan Pressel had a first-hand view when Karrie Webb holed her wedge from the fairway here in 2006 to get into a playoff with Lorena Ochoa in one of the most dramatic ending in this storied championship’s history, and Morgan Pressel nearly did the same Sunday. Her wedge from a similar spot to where Webb holed it bounced twice before the pin and landed on the back edge of the hole before hopping out.
“It was crazy. I kind of sad to Rock, I said let’s just call this like Webby,” Pressel said. “I played it with Webby the year she did hole the shot from the fairway, and I can’t believe it basically hit the hole. I didn’t exactly see it, but it certainly looked like it did. So close. But I mean, I gave it four good days, and I can’t be too disappointed.”
Pressel would have forced a three-way playoff if the wedge shot, which ended up just six inches behind the hole, had gone down. But Brittany Lincicome one upped her in the group behind her with a beautiful five iron to six feet behind the hole and drained the eagle, meaning Pressel’s clubhouse lead only lasted about 10 minutes.
“She just hit such an incredible shot into 18,” Pressel said. “I certainly didn’t have my “A” game this whole weekend, but I kind of fouled it around, and ended up shooting, I think, 3-under on the weekend, so I’ll take it.”
The solo third-place finish is Pressel’s best finish in a major since a runner-up at the 2011 Wegmans LPGA Championship - a fact she’ll surely take considering she’s still working through swing changes.
“If you would have told me after Singapore I would have a chance to win ANA, I don’t know if I would have believed you,” Pressel said. “But that’s golf, I guess. I don’t know what else to say. It comes and goes.”
NUMBERS TO KNOW
3 – The three-hole playoff was the longest in the tournament’s history
6 – This is the sixth time this event has ended in a Playoff
9 – number of different players that have won a major in their rookie season.
10 – Lydia Ko’s streak of 10 straight top-10s came to a close this weekend.
10 – Lydia Ko will remain No. 1 in the world after this week and will spend her 10th week as the world No. 1.
11 - number of majors that have been won by an LPGA rookie (Juli Inkster and Se Ri Pak both won two)
17 – Snapped a streak of 17 straight events in which Lydia had finished under par for the week.
49 – Lydia Ko has never missed a cut in 49 LPGA Tour starts
KO’S HISTORIC STREAKS END AT THE ANA INSPIRATION
Lydia Ko finally showed she’s indeed human this week, finishing outside of the top-10 for the first time in 10 events.
In her first major championship start as world No. 1, Ko conceded that her tie for 51st this week was indeed disappointing but said she simply didn’t hit the fairway enough and the putts didn’t drop either.
“Obviously a little disappointing, but I felt like I hit some good shots and some good putts, but just didn’t drop,” Ko said. “When that happens, you really can’t do much. I’m putting good strokes on them. Like yesterday, I left a couple short, so I was disappointed in that way, but today I got them to the hole and a couple of them lipped out where it felt like it was in but it didn’t end up being that way. That kind of really summarized my week.”
It was still a historic week for Ko, though. Her first-round 71 ensured that she tied Annika Sorenstam for the longest streak of consecutive subpar rounds with 29. It was just the first time in 17 starts that Ko did not finish with an under par score for the week.
But Ko might have learned something going forward – how to hit it out of the rough. Although Ko – a supreme driver of the golf ball – had an off week and only hit 30 of 56 fairways, she still managed to hit 15 greens in a final round in which she hit only three fairways.
“I feel like I was grinding a lot this week, but considering that I played pretty good for what positions I was sometimes in off the tee,” Ko said.
“I think I’ve learned how to play rough shots. That is one of the biggest things I’ve learned this week, and it was tough. It was really thick so I was learning something there.”
Ko now heads to the rest of the season with four majors left to break Morgan Pressel’s record as the youngest major champion in LPGA Tour history. She will take a break for the next two weeks before returning to action at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in two weeks, where she’s set to defend her first win as an LPGA professional – a date she has tattooed on her wrist.
“I’m going to take a good break and just enjoy that and be excited for my next one in San Francisco,” Ko said.
TRIAL BY FIRE FOR KIM
It wasn’t the final round rookie Sei Young Kim wanted, but if there’s anything learned this week, it’s that she’ll surely be back. Kim, who already won the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic, entered the day with a three-shot lead and she still held the lead entering the back nine. But it was Kim’s first back nine in a major championship with the lead on Sunday and it showed. She made four bogeys and a double to go with three birdies for an inward 3-over-par 39 and finished two shots back of a playoff in a tie for fourth.
“Very disappointed,” Kim said through a translator. “Overall my shots really weren’t going the way I wanted to especial
ly on the back nine. I think I still had a few opportunities where I had a chance to win it, but unfortunately the shots weren’t there.”
Kim said before the final round that she was used to coming from behind for the win and four of her five wins in Korea were along that tune. Experience like the final group on Sunday can’t be taught, though, and Kim’s sure to feel more comfortable next time she’s in this situation.
“I think what I’ll get out of this week is next time I’m in a similar situation I know what options I have,” she said. “I think I can learn from that and I can make better decisions.”
LOW AMATEUR HONORS FOR MOORE
Haley Moore was the very last competitor to earn a spot in the field this week, having won the ANA Inspiration Junior Challenge on Monday afternoon by four shots. Moore, a resident of Escondido- about two hours from Rancho Mirage, was also the youngest player in the field at 16 years old. She was the only amateur out six in the field to make the cut,
giving her low amateur honors.
“It was just so fun,” said Moore. “Every day I met new people, and I just had a great time. Friday was a little nerve-racking, but I was able to get it done to make the cut. So this weekend, Saturday and Sunday I just told myself go out there, have fun and just enjoy it as long as it lasts.”
Moore gave an emotional television interview after her second round and said she has seen quite a jump in her social media mentions this week.
“A lot, and I’ve been getting a bunch of messages from people I don’t even know,” said Moore. “So they’re just saying how proud they are of me, and, yeah, it’s really nice.”
Moore joins the likes of Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis and Lydia Ko as players to earn low amateur honors at this championship.
EAGLES FOR WARRIORS
Nine total eagles were made at the ANA Inspiration and players raised $4,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project as part of the season-long Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends. The nine eagles today pushes the season-total to $60,000.
Wounded Warrior Project® Weekends is a season-long charity program that will be tied into the Race to the CME Globe. Each Saturday and Sunday at LPGA tournaments, CME Group will donate $1,000 to Wounded Warrior Project® for each eagle that is recorded. This amount will increase to $5,000 for each eagle during the weekend of the CME Group Tour Championship and a formal check will be presented to the Wounded Warrior Project® during the trophy ceremony at the CME Group Tour Championship. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.
“The first time it felt fairly easy because I thought I was so far out of the tournament, that I never had a chance. Hitting the 5-iron into the hole the first time, I wasn’t nervous at all. I’m standing here, physically shaking like a leaf still, and it’s over and I’m still shaking.” - Brittany Lincicome after her win